Website Architecture and Development

Website architecture is a design and planning methodology for websites that focuses on the user, and the users requirements for their site, with a particular emphasis given to the overall information architecture and the technology to be employed in designing and implementing the website into production, online.

In conventional architecture and design, you do not put a building on a hillside without consider the foundation. The appearance of your “building” is important, and so is the layout and the way things flow inside and out, but to realize the desired aesthetics, the foundation and structural elements that make the design possible must be taken into account. Planning a new website or managing major revisions to an existing website is a lot like that.

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Clearly defining your site strategy, content strategy, and technology strategy are the three principal areas that website architecture address, with the goal of producing the initial abstract design for the website and it’s data structure. There are many decisions to be made during this early phase, and there is a great deal of information that needs to be collected and organized.

STRATEGIC

Site Strategy. We have to assume that you already have some specific ideas about what you want to do, or you wouldn’t be coming to us to begin with. Once we understand what your objective is and conceptually visualize how it might be achieved, our role is to give you guidance on what is feasible, and what is not, based on your budget, and to suggest different ways that you might produce the similar results, with different economies.

Technology Strategy. Your technology strategy involves scale-ability, the platform you are going to host the website on, the types of databases that will be deployed, the programming languages that will be used, and the development environment that will be used to build and maintain your website in. The complexity of the application will sometimes determine the direction, but there are always options, and thus more important decisions to make.

Content Strategy. The goal here is to clearly identify the actual content that you want to present, how it is going to be organized, and the way the website is going to use and manipulate the data as if flows through the various processes as part of the user experience. The ebb and flow of your website is defined in this phase.

TACTICAL

Content Production. Someone has to write the headlines and the copy, someone has to gather all the photos and images that are needed, and someone has to build and populate the databases. Is it all new data? Is there information in other databases that needs to be merged into the new ones? How? Do you need to take or buy different photos and images, or edit existing ones? If you are getting content for your website from other online sources, what does that look like? All this work needs to be done if you want to realize the original design concept.

Programming and development. Based on the application’s requirements, this is where the databases are connected to the pages that require access, and the presentation and programming flow of the applications is implemented and finalized for user testing.

Site construction and integration. Only at this late stage of the project are the bulk of the website pages constructed and filled with content. With all it’s pages complete, graphics refined, database and programming components in place along with a navigation structure, the full site is ready for user testing.

User testing and site refinement. Ideally, your full site testing should be done by people outside of the development team, so in most cases we exclude ourselves as objective partners in this process. However, if you have a site developed elsewhere and you want to have the site, or parts of it, tested we are set up to do that and provide you with an objective and quantified report on our findings. Either way, full Pilot testing of a new or modified website is always a good idea. It's your last line of defense and there is always something that can be tweaked in response to the feedback you get from user testing.

Tracking and statistics. Any site that we assemble is going to have Google Analytics built into it so its performance can be monitored. It’s a good tool, and the data it generates is important. If you do not have Google Analytics integrated into your current website, we can set that up for you, and show you how to use it to improve the results you are obtaining from your Internet marketing.

Social Media. You cannot ignore social media marketing if you are trying to drive visitors to your websites. Those days are gone, so meet the new normal. Any site we assemble will have two way links to at least Facebook, Twitter and Google+, and we can integrate another 20 or so sites on top of that. If you aren’t there yet, we can explain how it works and help you integrate links and code into you existing websites.

Blogs.You can not have a discussion about Social Media and connecting to your user community without talking about blogging. A lot of commercial business and eCommerce websites already use blogging to help improve their communication, and connection with their customers.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO). One of the original goals of going through the architecture process to begin with was to ensure the most recent SEO strategies were being deployed in the original application design. We don’t necessarily consider ourselves to be SEO experts, but we do follow the latest trends and keep ourselves current with what is considered good page design to the search engines that will be indexing your site. The website itself is just a part of the marketing mix, and there are a lot of variables for why a site gets listed on page one in a Google search. We focus on the fundamentals of you sites page layout and keywords so your site is easily indexed. XML Sitemaps are essential, and we have solutions for tracking, social media and blogging, and anything you may want to use to drive customers to your site. And of course we can also modify existing pages (and code) to incorporate anything that an independent SEO professional is advising you to do.

API Integrations. API's (Application Program Interfaces) are used by a wide variety of companies to let your website communicate with, and use, their online services. Examples would include using Google reCaptcha on a comment form, using PayPal to process your customer's payment transactions, using FedEx or UPS API's to get shipping rates for a current order, or using the QuickBooks API's to keep your local Quickbooks data file in sync with you daily online transactions. There are lots of others API's out there, depending on what vendors you work with. We've worked with a lot of these over the years and the fundamental communications between servers is similar, using either REST or name/value pair sets to pass data and then handling the responses that come back. We can help you with any of this type of programming.

The"RawrCart™ Shopping Cart. We have our own self-hosted shopping cart application that we have been using for our own eCommerce websites for more than 15 years! It’s written for ASP.Net 4.0, and uses MS SQL databases, so it is an industrial strength solution if you are going to be on an ASP.Net platform. The standard category and product based version requires about the same setup time as any of the commercial and open source carts. RawrCart™ might be your best choice if you need a highly customized checkout process or any special functions in the order process that are outside the scope of what is available “off the shelf.” Completely customizable!